Posts tagged Steven Thompson

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Gray Morrow Portrait from 2001

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It was the turbulent time in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks when Alan Weiss told me over the phone that Gray Morrow was no longer with us. He didn’t get much into detail other than about his deteriorating illness. Gray had been suffering a severe case of Parkinson’s disease. He passed away on November 6, 2001. Alan also said that Jon B. Cooke was preparing a tribute for him and asked if I wanted to contribute a drawing and a few words. I did both and it was published in Comic Book Artist #17, February 2002. I recently found a scan of the drawing at our good friend Steven Thompson’s web-tribute to Gray Morrow, Shades of Gray. Steven is the fabulous curator of Booksteve’s Library of cultural delights. The Gray Morrow blog is a wonderful peruse and highly recommended for a memorable ride with some of the sweeter eye candy to behold in comics art.

Gray Morrow was a frequent visitor during Continuity’s heyday in the 1970’s. His towering gentlemanly presence was immediately felt when he walked into the studio. He seemed to always bestow an atmosphere of calm and serenity. The same quality that was also the hallmark of his art.

It was a special treat to appear in the same comic book with him, DC Superstars of Magic #11, with his cover and my contents page illustrations of Houdini and Zatana, early 1977.

Mark Evanier, in tribute, said that Gray Morrow had fallen between the cracks of the industry with a realistic style that mainstream publishers didn’t believe would be received well by readers who were more used to the action and melodrama publishers liked to promote. There was nothing really melodramatic about Gray. Nor about his art. It wasn’t overly forceful or violent. It didn’t scream out at the reader. It rather whispered and tantalized with an air of grace, rhythm and harmony. Perhaps this was one of the reasons it looked more realistic than mainstream art. It was calm, settled and quite every-day looking. Just like most of our visual world is. That was also its strength.

Purchase Gray Morrow: Visionary @ Amazon (click image)

Evanier additionally noted that regardless of how strongly publishers believed they knew what the comics reading audience wanted, the bottom line was that comics sales have never really  reflected the marketing savvy that publishers claimed. They had never succeeded in breaking the barrier of the hardcore fan market. Which seems like good reason to believe that artists such as Gray Morrow, whose work was a little to the side of mainstream, were placed on the fringes of the industry  without due cause, other than perhaps publisher or editor presumptuousness. Some artists were simply not given a chance to compete within the monotonous house look that publishers had carved out for themselves. Given this reality, it is not out of the question to assume that this is one of the reasons that actual comics sales have always floundered. Publishers have been trying too hard to predict a market that is apparently far more diverse than their marketing shortsightedness could admit to.

It apparently took a great deal of conviction for Gray Morrow to persevere with his style in the face of pressure from colleagues and publishers to move closer to the center. Or rather let loose with more angst and melodrama. But this conviction was also the same quality within Gray that sought to bestow a more peaceful and harmonious visage to the comics medium. Gray Morrow wasn’t a fighter in that sense of the word. He didn’t believe that he needed to struggle with his art in order to shape it into what the publishers wanted. The fight he fought was to quietly persevere in his work and allow it to speak for itself. He lived this conviction about his art, and his life, all the way till the end. When his illness became evidently irreversible, Gray Morrow surrendered to it, in the same way he had surrendered to the vision of harmony and grace that he believed his art should evoke.

Gray Morrow’s art feels much more at home today within the more diverse medium that’s rapidly evolving. He was too good a man and an artist for the comic book industry of his time. So good that he’s made an indelible unique mark on it, and profoundly predicted many of the current trends in comics art.

Gray Morrow (2001) in Portraits of the Creators and Wikipedia.

Images from Steven Thompson’s Shades of Gray

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A little more on Dick Giordano

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The Comics Reporter Tom Spurgeon delivers (in familiar incomparable form) an in depth review of Dick Giordano’s career.

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The Groovy Agent posts a complete unforgettable vintage Dick Giordano Batman tale.

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Steven Thompson doesn’t talk much about being a member of an International Team of Comics Historians. It was only due to his linking to this site’s remembrance of Dick Giordano that the delightfully perky Super I.T.C.H Blog came under our radar. Even in his passing, Dick continues contributing to and promoting the comics history he loved.

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Neal Adams mourns the loss of a brother and friend:

Dick GiordanoInking my work was the LEAST significant thing that Dick did for-me and to me. I loved Dick like a brother and a friend. He cared for and loved me. I was made better by him. For a time, we were partners, on a handshake. NO ONE didn’t like Dick Giordano and respect him. Who can say that? Look at that face. JUST,…look at it.

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A Groovy Diversion

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Maybe it’s just me, but it seems there are more and more sites and blogs uploading entire stories of comics from back in the days. Comics that might be hard to find today, if you didn’t collect them when they were published. Though it seems such sites have been around for some time, it’s only in the last while that I’ve run into the phenomenon. Most of the ones I’ve seen focus on the Broze Age of comics, from the early 1970’s into the mid ’80’s, and carry a wealth of comics stories from that era. Young readers who haven’t yet seen these treasures would be greatly enriched by them.

My first encounter with such a site was a few months ago when I stumbled upon Diversions of the Groovy Kind, which after snooping around I discovered is one of several sites produced by Jonathan A. Gilbert. The site, full of wonderful treasures and commentary  is maintained by The Groovy Agent (not Jonathan, and keeps his civilian identity well concealed). There, he reviewed an origin of Doctor Fate story that I inked over Joe Staton in DC Special Series #10, 1978, Secret Origins of Super Heroes. The Groovy Agent had a few good words to say about the art, and specifically the inking:

The coolness factor was ramped up about 6,000 notches when Mike Nasser (now Michael Netzer) stepped in to ink the tale. His psychedelic-yet-realistic inking style perfectly complemented Staton’s cartoony style to create a truly unique visual that perfectly suited the mood of Levitz’s script. Dig it, baby!

Today’s comicbook creators take note of how faithful Levitz, Staton, and Nasser were able to stay true to the source material, and yet give it a new shine and gloss that fit the era it was created for. That’s how ya make good comics!

Well, that was enough for me. First, there was the reality that this is the first time I’d seen the completed story in print since around the time it was published.  Throughout my wanderings from that time, I simply haven’t held on to or maintained a comics collection to speak of, especially a collection of the comics that I drew myself. The internet remains the best source for me to see my old work, including convention sketches, commissions and anything else. So when such web sites upload entire stories, it’s a big treat and very nice way to see the work again – and finally at least have a digital copy of it. Secondly, that was a very nice comment, of the type that isn’t often heard about my work from a time many people prefer to characterize me as an Adams clone. Not that they don’t have reason to, mind you, but it seems to miss the point about whether the work possesses a notable independent quality as good comics that are fun to read and worthy to collect. So, that was enough for me to thank the Groovy Agent in the comments to that post, where he responded in kind, and also invited me to contribute some reminisces from my career to his blog, if I was inclined.

Some time later, The Groovy Agent uploaded the entire issue of World’s Finest Comics #244, which also included the first of the 3 issue mini-series of Green Arrow and Black Canary I penciled, that was inked by Terry Austin. Again The Groove chimed in with a few nice words.

And man, did Teen Groove flip for that hip Nasser/Austin art!

So I sent out an email thanking him again and said that reminiscing about that era at his site sounded like a good idea. Upon hearing the enthused response, I tried to summarize those early years in a short piece that has now become published in a Groovy Guest Post:: “Reminiscing” by Michael Netzer and carries the first ever professional comics work I did for DC Comics, a back-up in Jack Kirby’s Kamandi.

Ol’ Groove is proud and honored to have none other than one of my favorite Groovy Age artists, Michal Netzer (known back in the Groovy Age as Mike Nasser) as today’s Groovy Guest Poster. I’ve written about Michael’s prodigious artistic talents a few times, and each time the ever-gracious Mr. Netzer has responded with nice things to say about the articles in particular and the Diversions in general. As a way of thanking him for his generosity, I had the gall to ask him if he’d be interested in doing a guest-post, can you believe that? Thing isthat Michael actually responded in the positive–and below is the proof! I truly believe that you’re going to be blown away by Mr. Netzer’s first-hand memories of a magical time in comicbook history. Enough yakkin’ from me! Ladies and gentlemen…Michael Netzer!

If you’re inclined, do the jump and read this reminiscing about a magical time in the comics. A few web friends have already chimed in with nice words about it, including Steven Thompson, keeper of Booksteve’s Library and John Mundt, Esq., keeper of The WOMP blog, both of whom I became friends with through similar circumstances, here and here respectively. Another nice comment comes from blogger Joe Bloke:

Mike, you are a legend, mate. and you, Groove? well done, fella.

Joe has also recently uploaded a couple of stories of mine into his blog, which likewise sports a very groovy name:

GRANTBRIDGE STREET & OTHER MISADVENTURES

Chock-full of good old time treasures maintained by Joe Bloke. I’ve spent hours reading through a lot of fabulous comics there that have slipped under my radar. Back in May, 09, Joe uploaded the entire Batman/Kobra story I penciled for DC Special #1: 5 Star Super Hero Spectacular, written by Martin Pasko and inked by Joe Rubinstein.

But the real caveat at Grantbridge Street was a post from about two weeks ago, carrying a B/W story I penciled for Warren Publishing’s 1984 magazine: The Box, written by Len Wein and inked by none other than Filipino legend Alfredo Alcala. This is a very special story for me, which came at a time that I’d somewhat slipped away from the comics scene and was experimenting with other approaches, mainly driven by the overall experience I was endeavoring into, and which demanded its own presence in the art. Though, I can’t remember the text being so “pointless”, as Len Wein writes in the story itself (I likely worked “marvel style”, from a plot, and never actually saw any finished text while drawing it). More so, I’d never seen this story published before and never actually saw Alcala’s finishes, though I knew he was slated for the job. This is a wonderful treat for me and might surprise anyone not familiar with it, so do have a look and spend some time perusing another great archive of good ol’ time comics at Grantbridge Street & Other Misadventures.

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"My friend Michael Netzer in his previous life as Mike Nasser, one of the most unheralded comics pencillers of the day"

Album of ’70s Comics Creators

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Our good friend, Steven Thompson of Booksteve’s Library has posted a fine archive volume of photos in a new Facebook Album of comics creators from the 1970’s.  Photos are clipped and scanned from The Comics Buyer’s Guide (TBG, CBG) issues of the ’70s.

"My friend Michael Netzer in his previous life as Mike Nasser, one of the most unheralded comics pencillers of the day"

"My friend Michael Netzer in his previous life as Mike Nasser, one of the most unheralded comics pencillers of the day"

Amongst them, he found a photo of myself that was likely taken about mid-1978 at a NY convention. The entire Album is rich with memorable personalities such as Al Williamson, Archie Goodwin, Barry Windsor-Smith, Bill Everett, Jack Kirby, Bob Kane, Charles Schulz, Russ Manning, Charles M. “Chuck” Jones, Dave Cockrum, Milton Caniff, Don Newton, Jim Steranko, Frank Frazetta, Gardner Fox, Gene Colan, Harvey Kurtzman, Howard Chaykin, Jack C. Harris, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Jeffrey Catherine Jones, Joe Kubert, Joe Orlando, Joe Staton, Nick Cuti, John Buscema, Mike Grell, Don Macgregor, Jeneatte Kahn, Stan Lee, Marie Severin, Neal Adams, Nester Redondo, Rich Buckler, Roy Thomas, Russ Heath, Roger Stern, Steve Gerber, Steve Leialoha, T. Casy Brennan, Terry Austin, Trina Robbins, Len Wein, Vaughn Bode, Wally Wood, Walt Simonson, Wendy Pini, Frank Thorne, Will Eisner… and many more.

From a comment he made on the album, Steven informs that there’s much more to scan where these came from, and we can hope to see the album continue growing.

In the fine tradition of his cultural blog site, Booksteve’s Library, Steven continues to compile and chronicle the entertainment culture of a previous era that’s otherwise been left behind for posterity. He does so with impeccable dedication and foresight. Visit his site regularly, and if possible, make a donation toward its continued presence as an unmatched compilation of nostalgia that both edifies and endears.

Viewing the Album of 1970’s creators is open to everyone. No need for registration at Facebook.

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